Johannesburg - Parliamentarians traded insults during Wednesday’s heated debate on land reform, resulting in two MPs being booted out of the National Assembly for calling each other “thieves”.
It was a case of second time around for the Economic Freedom Fighters - MP Andile Mngxitama, was ejected from the House for refusing to withdraw a statement considered unparliamentary.
It was also the second time tensions flared between Mngxitama and Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald on the land issue. The pair had come close to exchanging blows when debating the land issue last month, with Mngxitama calling Groenewald a land “thief”.
And ANC MP Jackson Mthembu had his hands full on Wednesday as he tried in vain to maintain the peace between them during a debate on Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti’s budget.
The altercation ensued after Mngxitama again called Groenewald a land “thief”, with Groenewald saying black people stole land from the Khoi and San people.
A visibly irritated Mthembu, who chaired the debate, had to interject at one point, calling for MPs to refrain from insulting one another, before telling both members to leave.
“Leave this House, you can’t insult members of this House,” Mthembu told Mngxitama.
Mthembu said it was “immaterial” how members felt about each other.
“We are expected to observe the decorum of this House. This is what is expected of us by people in the gallery, by people who listen to what we say. They don’t expect us (to be) insulting in this House. It can’t be right, it can’t be tolerated.
“We can’t be building a South Africa as honourable members by insulting one another here,” Mthembu said.
Mngxitama retorted: “It’s not an insult, chairman, it’s the truth!”
EFF MP Hlengiwe Maxon came to Mngxitama’s defence and she, too, was asked to leave the chamber. She did not leave, however, without having the last word.
“He (Groenewald) must bring back our land,” Maxon said.
Groenewald was also asked to withdraw comments that black people also stole land, conceding that “black people didn’t steal any land, but white people didn’t steal any land either”.
Before the fracas, Mngxitama said the country does not have a land reform policy.
“On a more serious note, we do not have a land reform programme or policy in South Africa,” Mngxitama said. “If one looks at the past 20 years, the country has only redistributed 8 percent of the land.
“In fact, we are just giving those who stole our land money. The main policy programme of this government promotes illegality.”
Mngxitama said the EFF would give the ANC its support to amend section 25 of the constitution, and add “expropriation without compensation”.
Responding to Mngxitama’s call, Nkwinti said the EFF wants “everything for free”.
“It’s a pity that they don’t know how to raise very good issues. I think it’s a matter which they should sit down and think about, how to influence society, how to influence their own colleagues in Parliament. I don’t think they understand that yet,” Nkwinti said.